Thursday, December 03, 2015

Keeping it real

Well, it's been a couple of days since my Mom passed. A lot of activity--phone calls, e-mails, FB posts galore, getting ready for the memorial service--so I haven't left myself a lot of time to write, to feel, to deal with things. I just sorta placed my emotions on the backburner and kept busy. One of my duties was to get Mom's obituary to the local paper and her hometown paper. Another was to layout the program for her "Celebration of Life," but I really haven't been in a celebratory mood. I've been grumpy and I've even lashed out at two of my sisters. Regrettable, but given the situation, understandable.

The outpouring of love and support has been tremendous this week...from old high school classmates of Mom and Dad--from my own high school, even--to Tres Dias people I've never met, it's really been overwhelming. There have been tributes from people far and wide that I can't really fathom the scope of it. I had NO idea how many lives Mom had touched so deeply. But she had that uncanny way of making everyone feel like a close friend or relative. Just ask the ex's. She took everyone of them under her wing and made them feel like her very own children. I know my ex-wife still does. And Dad has welcomed her into his home with outstretched arms. He reiterated to me yesterday, "Tracy and Barb are just like blood to me. They'll never get too far away that I won't love them just like they are my kids. They ARE my kids."

That's how my parents are...they just love people. Mom's love, which she wore on her sleeve, drew people in. Take her Hospice nurse who she only met in September, MaryStar is now like family to all of us. She and Mom had a special bond instantly, the day they met! Only my Mom can do that. She just has that maternal instinct and that open-heartedness that she can draw you in, make you feel so comfortable just bearing your soul to her and give you a warm hug and a smile that say, "it's are loved and accepted."

So it's no wonder that every person who knew her at church, knew her from Tres Dias or just had made acquaintance with the family at some point, have such wonderful memories and feelings towards her. That part, and we've only touched the tip of the iceberg, has really blown me away.

I posted the video of her testimony from church. Even that short video of how she's stared down cancer and death with grace and gratitude has touched people who never even met the woman. Guess I never fully realized the power of Mom. She was a life force.

That's what we'll be celebrating on Saturday. I fully expect a standing room only crowd at Cicero Christian. I just don't know what I'm going to say...or how difficult it will be to say it. I've already offered to share my sister, Keely's, tribute/testimony. That's just what big brothers do. But I could be a bumbling, sniffly mess on Saturday. I don't know. It hasn't fully hit me yet. A part of me is still in disbelief. Call it denial if you will. But I haven't even been able to write about it for days...and that is so unlike journal entries, no blog posts, only a few Facebook memories and photos. Being busy has been good, but now with a couple of down days and family arriving, I don't know what to expect. I'm a very emotional being, so I'm sure it's going to be rough.

Thanks for allowing me to ramble here. Leave a comment or a post on my FB timeline. Peace.


Monday, November 30, 2015


Now that I've had 24 hours to process Mom's death, I'm ready to talk about it.

I guess I'm just more of a spiritual person that I see other's as spiritual beings not bound by the earthen body they inhabit. I always loved my Mom's spirit. I didn't really want to come up for Thanksgiving and see her bound by the cancer-ridden, age-worn body she has had for weeks. She looked as bad as I had feared. Every time I walked by her sitting in the high back chair in her living room, I felt like I needed to go over and take her pulse. But nothing was worse than seeing her as a corpse yesterday morning.

I got up around 4:30 and showered. Got my girls moving and had them wake up Dad before our departure. We said our goodbyes and around 5 a.m., I went in to kiss Mom on the forehead. It didn't feel right under my lips. No warmth. Concerned, I told Dad to check on her and hugged his neck one more time. The girls and I left. I figured if something was wrong, he'd call me back into the house immediately. Nothing. Fifteen minutes later, I'm pulling into a Speedway station in Noblesville to fillup before hitting I-69. I look down and see the text from Dad.

I raced back to Dad's, upset with myself that I didn't stay while he checked on Mom. She was dead. Her spirit had left her body sometime between 2 and 5 a.m., probably closer to 5 as Dad felt warmth on the back of her leg.

The image of her lying in her bed, eyes partially opened, mouth gaping open, exposing her bottom teeth is now burned into my memory. I'll never not see mother's corpse laying there as if in a morgue. I hated it. I had to go in there with various family members, but I tried not to look at her. That wasn't Mom. She was no longer there.

I understand that people have to grieve and say goodbye in their own way, so there is no judgment at all. Just that, for me, I had already said goodbye. I didn't need to lay next to her corpse and touch her or talk to her as if that were still my Mom. It wasn't. She may have been in the room with us, hovering over us or wherever spirits go in the immediate departure of their body, but she was no longer in that earthen vessel. And thank God for that!

Her soul-less body laid there for hours until we had it removed by the mortuary service we are using. That body will be ash in less than 48 hours, now. That's what Mom wanted.

I want to remember Mom for the vivacious person that she was on the inside--passionate, emotional, feisty, loving, funny, artistic, creative, genuine...

My Mom had a great sense of humor. She didn't always say funny things, but she appreciated comedy. We'd laugh at the stupidest things, finding humor in other people's shortcomings, in sheer goofiness and shocking comments. Mom was very sarcastic and appreciated my smart-aleck side even when it annoyed her. I could always get her to laugh, usually at the most inappropriate things or comments. I do inappropriate well...but that's because Mom let me know it was okay to sometimes step over the line and go for shock value. We'd laugh at Pee Wee Herman or at Michael Richards on the sketch comedy show Fridays or the insane, improv on SCTV. She taught me how to laugh, not only at comedians but at myself. I learned not to take myself too seriously from her. One of the things I will miss the most about her is her laugh. I'll miss how I could steal her breath through laughter and cause her to double over, covering her mouth, eyes closed with tears streaming down her cheeks. It didn't happen often, but when it did...I knew I had struck comedy gold!

My Mom loved good music and instilled in me a great sense of rhythm and soul. She preferred the Motown of her childhood and the harmonies of groups like Mamas and Papas, Beach Boys or the Carpenters. It's the thing that set her apart from Dad, who tended towards classical, rock-n-roll and (gawd help us all) bluegrass. Yes, it was Dad that first introduced me to banjo, but I digress. Both had a love of music, but Mom's music had more rhythm and soul. I remember listening to her Johnny Mathis records while she cleaned house and I created more messes for her to clean. I remember when she first introduced gospel music into our home. Mom's love for harmonies and a good beat you can dance to were a big influence on me growing up.

It was that spirit that loved to laugh, loved to create and share good music that made her who she was to me, not the body with all it's limitations. She was a fun Mom. She was a loving Mom. She was equal parts compassion and "what did I tell you?" no-nonsense. She was always my go-to. I regret the two years we rarely talked just after my separation and subsequent divorce, but I'm so thankful we were able to put that behind us last summer. I'm equally thankful that I got to come up and visit with her three times this year--July, September and November. And as hard as it was to see her failing body, I am glad I was here when she passed.

Now, we have a service to plan, people with whom to grieve and things to sort out. It's not a fun task, but a necessary one. The first steps of moving on are never easy, especially when those steps don't include your Mom. She is already sorely missed. But her spirit lives on. And we have tons and tons of great memories.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pancake Batter

It's probably not good to mix your pancake batter with tears, but that's nearly where I was this morning. And it's got me feeling totally nostalgic. I don't know. Maybe it was the Beatles listening party I attended last night, or listening to Magical Mystery Tour on the laptop this morning, but I nearly spilt happy tears, nostalgic tears into my Hungry Jack Extra Light and Fluffy earlier.

The girls were both taking showers to get ready for school. I had already browned a pan of Lil' Smokies and was allowing the freshly mixed batter to sit and rise (it makes for super fluffy pancakes). As I stood there at the stove in my ex-wife's house, pouring the fluffy mixture into a pre-heated skillet, my mind raced back to the spacious kitchen at 12983 Quarterback Lane where I used to prepare this same breakfast staple on a ceramic top, stainless steel range. My girls were much younger then--Makenna in first grade and MK repeating 3rd (she swears it was second, but I think I remember). Those were the mornings I'd be up early, starting the coffee for my wife and I, packing lunches with love note napkins and mixing that pancake batter. As this morning's first pancake was sizzling on the hot skillet, I reached for a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and my eyes were full of happy tears over the years of memories making this same morning treat for my sweets.

As I sprinkled in more than a dozen chocolate chips, I welled up with gratitude for the years I've enjoyed being the girls "special daddy." Sorta like the tears I'm fighting back now. Nothing in all my life has made me as happy/fulfilled as being a dad to two precious girls. I used to walk them three blocks to school on crisp autumn mornings in Indiana. Walking back, sometimes with our family dog(s), I was always wearing a smile...happy in the thought I'd just made the best investment of a lifetime. Now, my girls are much older and I hope they've learned to appreciate the investment. Makenna has always told me that the secret ingredient in all of my cooking is LOVE. And she would be right. The pancakes I made this morning--and every time I've made them on countless school mornings, birthdays and weekends--were made that way. When I told her that as she joined me stove-side this morning, Makenna fought back tears, too. I think she saw the misty emotion in my eyes.

That nostalgic feeling carried over to my trip home from the insurance agency, where I had to make another installment on my auto insurance. Driving up St. Augustine to Madison, I decided to pull in front of the Claude Pepper Building into the loading zone where I used to pick up the girls' mother from work after leaving my office on campus. I worked in that building for a short while, too, so I was well acquainted with the Eatz Cafe' in the lobby level atrium. I wasn't used to the new "check in" procedures, but I signed in and went through new security doors to reach the empty atrium dining area. I purchased some scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and sausage gravy for around $4 and sat there eating alone...just me and my memories. The ladies in Tracy's office threw us a baby shower for Merikathryn in that atrium, just a few feet from where I was eating breakfast. That was in 2001 when MK was still Merikathryn and such a cute little baby. No, I didn't cry inside the Pepper Building, but I certainly felt this blog post coming on.

I called Tracy after I had left to tell her of my fond memories. She was tied up in an out-of-town training workshop, so I just told her to read this post when she had time.

Our girls have given us many years of happy memories. MK's adoption 14 years ago still seems like a recent one. Then again, it seems a million lightyears away. As I looked at her this morning, double backpacks, embarking on another day in 8th grade, I was amazed at what a beautiful young lady she has become, seemingly overnight. Well, that does it for this entry. Hope you've enjoyed walking with me down memory lane. :)

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Thursday, September 03, 2015


When I had a brief talk with a friend, yesterday, he told me he was getting his priorities in order--God, family, music--and that they'd gotten out of whack some time ago. And while I may not share the same priorities in my life, I realized mine needed some reorganizing, too.

I joined a band back in April and was having a fair amount of fun playing live music again. But the music community here in Tallahassee is much different than the band of brothers I enjoyed in the Fort Myers area. And the venues here are not quite the same, either. It's hard to compare The Cottage, an old beach house on stilts overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, to the Moose Lodge. The pay was much different, as well. I kept telling myself, "You're doing the thing you love."

But before I joined the band, I started helping a very good friend of mine run his restaurant. Restaurants are busiest on the weekends. It was never a good fit for me to play in a band...on weekends, but I took Fridays off to do the thing I enjoy most, even if it meant a loss of income. For me, right now, that has to be priority number 2, behind my daughters. My income needs to get me to a place of financial freedom where I can afford a place of my own large enough to accommodate them--my daughters, the loves of my life.

In order to get to that place, I needed to make the band less of a priority and focus on making more money at work. And to be honest, I love being at the restaurant, too. My best friends all work there and it is a social outlet for me, much like the band was. I can make more money there on Fridays than I can in the band, so that was an easy decision to make. Well, sort was easy financially speaking but difficult because I'm giving up the thing I love. I'll miss my friends in the band, too.

But it all comes back to priorities. If my girls are number one, then making number two my job will surely help me to reach some important goals this year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

10 Years a Blogger

Wow, how time flies.

I began this blog as an outlet...for my spirituality, creativity, love of music and football...back in a time in my life when I was very confused. Fighting to let the real me out of the box, I'd turn to my blog and write. That was 2005.

The very next year was what I call my "mid-life crisis" when that crazy, adventuresome boy finally escaped his shell. Things went a little haywire that year, for sure, but I wouldn't trade that rollercoaster ride for anything. No, that year brought a lot of things to light...and I let my passion get the better of me. But it was good to free all that raw energy, to stir that deep well inside of me and to be as expressive as I wanted to be.

It certainly took it's toll on my marriage. We tried running away to Indiana, where much of the time, I kept myself hemmed in, but that boy was already loosed on the world. Just like Pan and his shadow, there was really no way to keep us separate--the man I wanted the world to see and the boy inside. So after four years of trying to live in that duality, keeping myself in check, we moved to paradise.

On Fort Myers Beach, the boy ran wild up and down the 7-mile island, along some of the softest sand you've ever felt, making new friends, experiencing things he'd wanted since childhood and living fairly carefree. Except there was still a marriage to tend to. I didn't do so well at tending. My marriage finally dissolved, as I realized it wasn't what my heart wanted. My heart wanted to be free to love who it would.

I was playing in a band with a beautiful brunette who swept me off my feet. She became available about 6 months after my separation and we began dating. I hadn't intended to get hitched again, but my heart kind of ran away with me. Again, I was trying to be as carefree as that boy inside wanted to be. Unfortunately, the damaged little girl in her couldn't receive love from a carefree soul like me and both of us fell into some bad patterns. I think we were both a little crushed inside because, at first, it seemed like a perfect fit. It ended badly.

Still, like the rollercoaster I was on in 2006, I wouldn't trade that time with her for all the time in the world. I was still learning to express my feelings, to truly be in touch with myself, to allow myself to love freely and be loved and to experience new things, like getting half naked at a nudist bar in the Keys (a story for another time).

While I was on "my beach," I played in a rock-n-roll cover band...something I'd always dreamed of doing. I realized very quickly that I was meant to be a beach kid...a bum, if you will. I lived on very meager means, borrowing an RV from some dear friends, who I still miss terribly. But even through poverty, divorce and a rebound relationship, I wouldn't trade that time on the island for all the love and riches in the world.

All of these experiences made me the sensitive soul I am today. So here I am, ten years after I started blogging, back in Tallahassee to be nearer my kids. I'm still learning, experiencing growth and living one day at a time. It's been quite the adventure. Feel free to take some time and look around. I haven't blogged all that regularly in many years, but from time to time, when something strikes me or I just need to get it out, you'll find me here.

Life is good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

200+ Years in Indiana

My ancestral roots in Gibson County go back to pioneer times back when Indiana was still a territory. I've spent countless hours researching my pioneer heritage and those branches of my Mills family who spread out from Gibson County, Indiana to Oklahoma and points beyond. Here's a little about the first generation of my Hoosier-born ancestry on mother's side.

Berilla Louisa Mills-Greek (1829-1908) provided the launching pad for my research. My third great-grandmother provided the family story published by Gil R. Stormont in his 1914 "History of Gibson County." She recounts how her Grandfather Mills' family emigrated from lower Maine to what would become Gibson County in southwest Indiana. Berilla weighed only one pound at birth 14 Mar 1829 in Princeton, IN; her twin brother, Zyasa, weighed seven pounds and yet died the following day. They were the first of three pairs of twins born to Duston and Louisa (Stapleton) Mills. Their's was the first full generation of Mills to be born on Indiana soil. After her marriage to Joseph Greek in 1848, the couple moved from Vanderburgh County (Evansville, IN) to a farm five miles east of Princeton. Joseph was a bricklayer at the time of their marriage, but he eventually took up farming in the rolling hills between Princeton and Francisco, IN, in a rural community known to locals as Fairview. She bore Joseph twelve children in all. Such was the case with Indiana farming families. The more children meant more hands for the hard labor required by that occupation.

Besides a twin brother who died a newborn, Berilla had a sister Adelia (1831-1853) who married Charles King in Gibson County, 1849. She bore him two children who went to live with grandparents, Duston and Louisa Mills, in Princeton after her death in 1853. A third sister, Cecilia Ann (1832-1875), born just 19 months after Adelia, married twice--Henry Bucklin in 1853 and George W Smith in 1871.

Berilla's fourth sister, Zelissa (1833-1886), followed suit in marrying a member of the Greek family--Samuel, Joseph Greek's younger brother by five years. Coincidentally, Samuel had been married previously to a daughter of Bracket Mills of Evansville, who was a first cousin to the Mills of Gibson County. Cousin Emily died at the age of 24, just two years after her marriage to Samuel and before she bore him any children. Zelissa married the widower in Gibson County just two days before Christmas 1852. They had one daughter, Lulu, and Zelissa died of liver and bowel disease in 1886, age 53. Samuel built the Garden City Mill in downtown Princeton in 1871.It sat along Chestnut Street near North Main St., just east of the Louisville, Evansville & St. Louis RR Depot. Adjacent to him, another Mills, Byron (1835-1908) brother to Zelissa Mills-Greek, ran the Peoples Planing Mill.

Byron took up the family business, carpentry, at an early age. He married Mary Jane Curry in 1855. He was a lifelong resident of Princeton, IN, with a home at 514 N. Race St., about four blocks east of his mill. His wife was near term with their fourth child when Byron enlisted 21 Oct 1861 in Company B of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry (Union Army). Besides running the planing mill, "a dealer and manufacturer of rough and dressed lumber, flooring and ceiling manufactured to order, in hard or soft lumber," (published on a county map by DJ Lake & Co, 1881), Byron was a charter member of the Grand Army of the Republic Post 28 in Princeton. Mary Jane bore him eight children before her death in 1882. He, then, married Ellen Spencer of Evansville. He died in 1908 of cirrhosis of the liver.

That brings us to the seventh child of Duston and Louisa Mills, a son, Horace Ames (1838-1856), who died at the age of 17, cause unknown, and is buried in the old Page Cemetery just east of Princeton, IN. Of the three sons born to that family by 1840, only one, Byron, had survived to adulthood. Firstborn Zyasa died an infant and Horace a teen.

Born in 1840, daughter Elvira (1840-1913) never lived on her own nor did she ever marry. She was not of sound mind, or as one census taker noted in 1880, "idiotic." At the time of her death, she was living with her nephew Guy Olds, near Francisco, IN.

Albert and Polly Mills Family, early 1900's

The second pair of Mills twins born on Indiana soil were Almena (1843-1878) and Albert (1843-1920). The latter became a local Civil War hero while his twin sister married a first cousin, Edgar Mills of Evansville, and died in her mid-thirties after bearing one daughter. Albert enlisted in Co. B. about three weeks after his brother Byron. Nearly three months to the day after mustering out of the Union Army, he married Polly Ann Yeager of Princeton. Up until the Civil War, Albert had lived on his father's farm and then obtained 80 acres known as the Weidenbach farm, where he lived until moving to Princeton in 1870. His sister, Berilla, wrote, " He was elected constable of Patoka Township, in which position he served four years and was then interested in the sawmill business for 25 years, also following carpenter work about ten years. He has been employed by the Southern Railroad Company at their shops for the past ten years (ca. 1914), and is numbered among their most faithful and efficient employees." He and Polly lived at 330 E. Monroe Street in Princeton. They raised five children.

The final pair of twins--children eleven and twelve to Duston and Louisa Mills--were Mary Katherine (1846-1930) and John (1846-1922). John married twice in Princeton--to Eva Paul and Fannie King--and lived at 621 Seminary Street, then 820 S. Race St, before moving west. Family stories say that his twin sister, Mary Katherine, was friendly with the Native Americans living on the Patoka River and tutored some of them. That's how she met her husband, a member of the Miami tribe, Cass Olds. He took her out west, where they married in Iowa, 1870, before moving to Missouri. By the mid-1880's, they were divorced and had six children together. She had lived out in California with one of their sons around the turn of the century, but was back in Gibson County, IN, by the time the 1910 U.S. Census was taken. She lived with various family members in and around Princeton where she died in 1930. Her twin brother died in 1922, making her the only one of the 12 Mills children to live long enough to witness the Great Depression.

Aside from being carpenters who made everything from flatboats to log cabins to milled flooring, the Mills were also learned men who practiced law, served in public office and helped to establish the towns of Princeton and Evansville. This brief recap is of my direct ancestors on my mother's side, who was born a Larson. Her grandmother was born a McEllhiney and the granddaughter of Berilla Mills-Greek who is at the forefront of this post. That is my direct connection to this great pioneering family. Berilla's grave is clearly marked and sits alongside a corn field in Center Township, Gibson County, in the area briefly described above as Fairview, between Princeton and Francisco. Sadly, the burial sites for her father, Duston, and grandfather, James, the patriarch who led the family from Maine to Indiana, are unknown. James died of milk sickness while living with another of his sons and the entire family was buried in the Patoka River bottoms, precise location unknown. Duston, my fourth great-grandfather, presumably died in Princeton in 1875, and though we know much of the story of his family, I do not know where he and Louisa (d. 1882) were laid to rest.

I'll share more about the other branches of this family in a future post, so stay tuned. (Note: The State of Indiana celebrates it's bicentennial next year. My family has owned a Gibson County farm throughout the state's 200-year history.)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Slavery, the flag and the war

Is this flag offensive to you? It is to me. And with all the debate surrounding it's use of late, I thought it a good time to put my views on slavery, the flag and the Civil War out there.

Sadly, it took our country more than 100 years to recognize African-Americans as fully-ordained citizens. From being viewed lower than livestock during the first half of the 1800's to finally receiving equal rights in the 1960's, our treatment of our black brethren was shameful, at best. And slavery remains a stain on the fabric of our nascent history. It took a young kid from Indiana only one viewing of the "Roots" miniseries on NBC in the 1970's to realize the wrong that had been done to them. I was sickened by images of young female slaves being dragged off and raped by their white overseers. The miniseries made me angry, sad and sick to my stomach.

Likewise, the flying of the Confederate flag stirs up those same feelings, for when I see it, I imagine it's user being the most vile of southern racists, stuck in a pre-1960's mindset of intolerance and hate. That is what the "stars and bars" represents for many Americans. For that reason, alone, it is offensive and should be taken down from statehouses and halls of justice. And just what "heritage" does it represent, exactly? A southern heritage of intolerance, injustice, inequality and white privilege? Quite a heritage, I must say. And if, to you, it's nothing more than a battle flag of the failed experiment called the Confederate States of America (CSA), then why fly the loser flag at all? In most battles, the tattered flag of the losing army, in this case the CSA, is lowered and the victor's flag raised. The Confederate flag represents all the wrong things--losing, at best, and hate, at worst.

Finally, I've grown very tired of the Southern revisionists who would have us believe that the Civil War was not about slavery. It was only fought over issues like autonomy, states' rights and independence.

So was the issue of slavery really a catalyst for war? I think it was. So does this article from So does Christopher Dickey, who wrote of the radical southerners and successionists, "Their cause was slavery: holding slaves, working slaves, buying and selling slaves—black chattel considered less than human beings by custom, by the courts, and even by the Constitution, whose authors never mentioned slavery but weasel-worded it into the founding document of the Union." And I agree with him. Slavery was the economy of the South. Successionists wanted to preserve their way of life, a life made entirely possible by slave labor and the crops they harvested for market. Dickey purports, "The hunger for that fresh territory and the slaves to work it was insatiable...More land, more slaves, meant more money and more power to dominate the federal government and make it support people who wanted more land, more slaves and more money." In Dickey's view the South was a "slavocracy" because, as I've always argued, their economy was built on the backs of slaves. Thus, the preservation of that economy and the war they fought for that aim was, in fact, a conflict to preserve slave ownership, plain and simple. Yet, as the article in points out, revisionists have always tried to paint it as something else. All of their vain attempts to veil the true intent of the Civil War, using terms like "state's rights" and "preserving our heritage," is just wordsmithing to remove slavery from the vocabulary of war historians. Some of us are smart enough to see through that flimsy veil, even when modern-day racists raise it in defense of things, like the use of the Confederate flag.

That's my .02 on the issue. And please, quit telling me to revisit the history books. I'm quite well read, thank you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Week from hell

Sorry but please allow me to vent...from my bench in the Tampa airport...where I'll probably spend the night.

I should have been hitting Louisville on I-65 in the next hour. Instead, it would appear I've headed the wrong direction. Let me backup to Thursday of last week to give you the full picture of how Karma's working against me.

The brakes on my Volvo went totally AWOL after picking my girls up from school. I managed to turn a potentially dangerous accident into a laughable fender bender. In fact, my girls and I laughed at our dumb luck. We were not harmed and their safety is my utmost priority. My car needed rear brakes last November, but short on the $500 needed I put it off. Now, I'm faced with a $1,000+ repair bill which is near what the car is worth. It is sitting at Vol-Car awaiting those repairs.

I didn't really have time to worry about the Volvo since my mom had major surgery scheduled and I was planning to go up and support dad this week. My car was definitely secondary. Mom made it through surgery and a partial day in ICU, but the wait on Tuesday was killing me...and I hated that I was not there. But I also knew that two of my sisters were there for her and dad.

My trip was planned for today so that I could help dad with his move to a smaller, more manageable house for him and mom as she navigates the effects of terminal illness. I really wanted to be there tonight. As you know from my intro, that's not happening.

Stuck in Tampa for the night, I only have funds to get back to Tallahassee tomorrow. Very bummed. Majorly disappointed.

I went round and round with Dollar Car Rental from Monday til this morning...always an issue with their debit card policy. I found a great round trip airfare from Tampa for less than the drive up ther in a rental, so I called a cab to get me from Tallahassee airport to the waiting RedCoach that brought me to Tampa. Bus fare was about equal to a tank of gas so that was cool. What wasn't so cool was RedCoaches' bus breaking down during a stop at USF, one half hour short of my airport destination. Split an Uber fare with another stranded passenger and finally made it to TPA just before 5pm. Problem is the Expedia fare that led me down here--which I could not book online due to traveling with cash in hand--was MUCH less than what I could actually fly to Indy on using cash at the counter. They wanted $350+ just to get me there. So travel plans now scrapped, I'm blogging from the arrivals area of Tampa International reflecting on this week from hell.

I'm very thankful that all the people I love most in this world are safe. That's the main thing. Mom is recovering and my girls are safe at home. I just hate the cruel tricks and curveballs Karma has thrown my way...and not sure what I did to deserve it. It's been an uber stressful week and I just wanna sleep in my own bed tonight.

---UPDATE 05/28/15---
Come to find out that part of my debit card troubles stem from a Hotwire reservation that I cancelled and even received email confirmation stating that my card wouldn't be charged. It was. What's more, the hotel that declined my card last night put a pre-authorization hold on my card that neither they or the credit union are willing to do anything about. I had both parties on the same call just now, each pointing the finger at the other. SO FRUSTRATING! I've run into problems every time I've tried to use my debit card this week. Good thing I carried some cash with me. So over this trip and this stressful week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SMDH, Hoosier State! GEEZ!!!

I'm going to post a parable of sorts. You know parables...the Bible is full of them.

Well, in this parable a 500-lb man goes to church/synagogue/temple/gathering everyday that they assemble. And after every assembly, this man drives his oversized vehicle to the oversized buffet at his favorite restaurant. While gorging himself on unhealthy foods, sending his blood pressure through the roof due to clogs in his arteries, he forgets that the plate which passed before him at assembly was largely empty. When it was passed, the assembly he attends was raising funds for starving children in East Africa. And though, he had a wad of cash in his front pocket, he let the plate pass by without giving it a second thought. While he consumed massive amounts of fried food at the buffet trough, another kid in Africa starved to death.

In this parable, you might say that the 500-lb man is a glutton. You might also note that there are plenty of Scriptures about gluttony. I haven't researched it on, yet, but I'd bet there are AT LEAST AS MANY references to gluttony as there are to, say, homosexuality. Yet, I've never seen one buffet, one church or one segment of the population picketed, singled out, ridiculed or "exposed" for their sinfulness because of gluttony.

Recently, the Hoosier State, that I'm sometimes ashamed to call home, passed a law allowing businesses to discriminate. And it's not gluttons they are targeting, but homosexuals. They aren't telling the world's greatest hypocrites to take their business elsewhere. Fornicators? WELCOME! Adulterers? Come and spend your hard-earned cash. But "the gays" better just keep on walking. Apparently, that sin trumps all others. And the guy in our parable is welcomed at church and the buffet line with OPEN ARMS.

Hoosier lawmakers, I'm ashamed of you. I really am. Why must you thrust our state back into the 1950's? What gives religious people--business owners or otherwise--the right to discriminate based on ANYTHING? And if you're going to call a spade a spade, well then let's get all the fornicators, adulterers, liars and gluttons lined up and labelled, as well. I hear the Germans still have a few of those yellow stars laying around, somewhere!

Thursday, March 05, 2015


Let me just say that I'm not a gun rights advocate. I've never owned weapons of any kind, unless you count the rustic bow and arrow I made in Indian Guides. I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually fired a gun.

That said, I find some humor in memes like the one below that was recently posted to social media by an old acquaintance of mine.

I mean, just the image itself is comical. It's 2015 and you're posting pictures of our very first President from some 230+ years ago and what he said about bearing arms. Do you really think George Washington could foresee some disgruntled Montanan with an arsenal that would make some third world countries salivate? He wasn't advocating the individual rights of citizens to stockpile grenade launchers, automatic rifles or weapons of mass destruction. That's simply ludicrous.

I know there are some gun rights nutjobs that foresee a looming zombie apocalypse and so they have to be prepared, but for the sane among us, we trust our government and our military to protect us from national threats, and our law enforcement and National Guard to protect us locally. We have no real reason to suspect that zombies, or any other threat, will be travelling neighborhood-to-neighborhood or door-to-door wreaking havoc.

We don't live in 1776 among tyrants with their own militias. We don't have towns waging mini-scale wars against each other. Nor are we going to devolve into some third world country controlled by nomadic warlords anytime soon.

And how long has it been since we settled our individual disputes with guns anyway. Even people from Oklahoma to California don't draw weapons in the street to settle disputes anymore. Well, maybe if you live in Compton, but that's another culture altogether. This isn't the Wild Wild West, people. We settle disputes through our court system, not through vigilante justice.

So why do we blindly defend the 2nd Amendment, written in a different era by men who were forging a new government, as if it means every Joe Blow in 'Merica should own 20 guns?

Author Michael Waldman has studied the 2nd Amendment and has a keen perspective on what the original framers were aiming for. "But when you actually go back and look at the debate that went into drafting of the amendment, you can squint and look really hard, but there's simply no evidence of it being about individual gun ownership for self-protection or for hunting. Emphatically, the focus was on the militias." (His full interview with Mother Jones is here).

We call them our volunteer National Guard now. They are the only militia we need. That is, unless you are some coked-out conspiracy theorist who believes our government--by the people, for the people--is so corrupt that it's out to kill us off one-by-one. Our government is NOT some other-worldly synod made up of cyborgs and Sith lords. They are just plain old citizens like you and me. Likewise, our "militia" is made up of mom's and dad's who sign up to be weekend warriors and stand ready to defend us.

Again, this isn't 1776, so for someone to post the meme above to Facebook is truly laughable to me. I'm really not scared that the British are coming. Nor am I worried that Blountstown is going to get so disgruntled with the way Tallahassee is running this state that they are going to take up arms and march down Highway 20 to bombard our city. At no time now or in the future will I have the need to take up arms against my brother over some land dispute. No, we will not be choosing weapons and marching any number of paces. I may choose to slap him with a pair of white gloves, but then it'll most likely just end in us rolling around on the ground, slapping and yelling profanities at each other. Ah, the good ol' days...but I digress.

We are a civilized nation. We've invested trillions into our national defense. And at the local level, we have armed security called Guardspeople and law enforcement officers. They are well equipped to defend us. So unless you live in Compton, do you really need that AK47?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Grandma Jesus and you

Since writing about Hashbrown Jesus last week, I've gotten a lot of positive response about that post. My family especially liked it. I went back the next evening for a late night snack and to see if I could catch HJ's real name (it's Gary, btw), but he wasn't working. My waitress, however, was there and she verified his story--his name, how he lives, how long he stays and works the grill at Waffle House every year.

As I reflected on that today, I remembered meeting Jesus on Christmas Day last year. Yes, just one month and one day ago. She walks the Earth, known to her contemporaries as Ms. Annie, but she lives and serves in a part of town known by locals as Frenchtown. I'm going to call her Grandma Jesus because that's what she has been to hungry people at the holidays for seventeen years.

And just like HJ, you'll find her among the downtrodden, the outcast, the poor and the marginalized because she, but for the grace of God, is one of them. We are ALL one of them. But we don't realize that in stooping down to serve, we get more out of the encounter than those we mean to serve. And do you know why? Because THOSE people are Jesus!

Did He not say that when you give your coat to warm a homeless person, you are in fact helping Him? I take those holy texts very literally. I know that when I fill a cup with water at the homeless shelter, I'm not doing it for nameless vagrant with the smelly clothes, the mussed hair and the dirty fingernails. I'm doing it because I look into that person's eyes and I see the face of the Divine.

If we will go hang with the homeless, the destitute, the prostitute, the marginalized in our society, we will see Jesus. Why are so many waiting for trumpets and a second coming? He's here, already, and He told us to be on the lookout. He's not carrying any cross this time, except the one we label Him with--homeless, beggar, queer, freak...(insert any label you want, here). He'd certainly appreciate a dollar, a warm meal, a friendly smile or someone to wash His dirty feet.

Will that someone be you?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Evaluating Birdman

I was captivated by this movie from the opening scenes, the witty dialogue between actors Keaton and Galifianakis and the drum-centric soundtrack (note: the drummer makes a few cameos throughout the film). In fact, I'm going to have to say that this is my most favorite movie soundtrack EVER! The jazz drum soloing seemed to fit the movie perfectly, but more importantly it suited my tastes to a "T."

But it was more than witty banter and cool drums. This movie struck a chord with me that is still resonating in my innermost self. I likened it today to the way the movie "Dead Poets Society" stuck with me at age 21. This was the middle-aged version of that movie.

Obviously, it's resonated with many movie-goers and cinema critics, alike. Which in itself is quite funny, since the movie takes a scathing look at snobby, theater critics. It also seemed to this movie-goer to be an autobiography of Keaton's real-life career. It's not a stretch to see his Birdman persona as the Batman he portrayed, ironically, the same year that "Dead Poets Society" was released (1989).

But it was more than autobiographic. It was emotionally stirring and hit WAY TOO CLOSE to home. A middle-aged man struggles with the path his life has taken. You know, us 40-somethings love to take stock at the supposed midpoint of our lives (as if we're all going to live to the ripe old age of our mid-80's). He's frustrated with his career path and attempts to reinvent himself, pouring himself completely into what he sees as a more worthwhile pursuit. Aren't we all taking stock and trying to gauge what exactly our legacy will be?

More importantly, he reassesses his relationship with his estranged wife/significant other, his daughter and his current female friend/co-star. His daughter, played by a personal fave, Emma Stone (those eyes! those cheekbones! that wicked smile!!!), is a complete mess, thanks in part to her father's absence in her life. You know, girls need their daddy's quality time. He's pretty much cut to the quick by her in one scene. The look on Stone's face is priceless after she realizes what she's done to him with her sharp tongue. It's quintessential Stone. She's a great actress, just by her facial expressions.

And this is where I'll note what a stellar job the casting director did. Not only did the casting director do her absolute best, she chose some of my favorite actors, including Stone (as noted above) and Edward Norton. I have loved his innocent-yet-devious, childish mug ever since I first saw "Primal Fear," in which he played an angelic-demonic altar (alter) boy. Zach Galifianakis has to be my absolute favorite comedic actor of the millennial era. His muted antics are a perfect fit for the film, much like the kick-ass soundtrack. As I said, his reparte' with the lead man in the first 10 minutes had me laughing out loud. He's just a funny guy and his timing is spot-on! I'd love to see the outtake reel of he and Keaton, who is very funny in his own right (I submit "Mr. Mom" as Exhibit A).

So casting, music, storyline...everything was right with this picture! I didn't even mind the quirky ending, which was reminiscent of "Big Fish" (2003, Ewan McGregor). No, I left the cheap theater very pleased and entertained. Introspective, but in a good way. Seeing much of myself in Keaton's exterior character, Riggan Thomas, and "Birdman," the low-tenored voice inside him. The war he raged with himself, the demons he fought, were all too real to me (more than I'd care to admit, but I think I just heard a cat let loose).

I'd recommend this movie to any guy my age. I'll bet any of you 40-somethings who were once moved by Dead Poets will be equally entranced, moved and amused at this movie. I'll probably own it on DVD one day, but who knows. I don't own a copy of Poets. Maybe it was just the right movie at the right time. Still, go and see for yourself. I promise you, if you are a drummer, you will dig the soundtrack!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I met Jesus today...

...He was flipping orders of scattered, smothered, covered hash browns at the local Waffle House. Didn't catch his human name, but he's the graveyard shift grill cook there.

We struck up a conversation over my plate of browns, topped with scrambled eggs and thick, warm sausage gravy. I found out he has a "real life" down in south-central Florida where he runs a number of fresh produce stands. But six-months out of the year, Hashbrown Jesus lives in the woods...amongst the homeless.

I came to this divine revelation simply by asking about and old, homeless lady I had the honor of sharing breakfast with at that same counter only a month ago. It was Christmas morning and I found the only seat at the service counter, next to her. Wondering how this frail, little widow survived the cold nights of early 2015, I asked Hashbrown Jesus how she was doing.

He informed me that "Martha" (we'll call her Martha for this article), was doing fine and had been accepted into a home for women. At Christmas time, it had rained for days and Martha had complained to me that her tent had sprung a leak, so I dug up some dry things to give her to keep her warm. Well, come to find out, HJ was now the proud occupant of her tent and he'd secured it with a new tarp over the top.

He's one of the homeless who live in the woods near I-10 and US 27 here in Tallahassee. I don't know the precise location of the woods, but I suspect there are a good number of transient residents therein. I know of one other elderly lady whom he looks after while he's in town.

"I live as a homeless person, by choice," he tells me at my early morning breakfast. That way, he says, he can identify their needs, help them and relate to them better. If that's not being Jesus in the most real of ways, then I don't know what is.

And come to think of it, it's no surprise to me that we'd find Jesus out there in those woods amongst the homeless in modern times. We might also spy him frequenting a bar, a synagogue or the solitude of the trails around Lake Lafayette. Needless to say, he wouldn't have a home. He's not of this world.

Neither is Hashbrown Jesus. Who leaves the comfort of home for six months out of the year to live in the woods of north Florida where the December-January temps often dip into the 20's overnight??? "I keep warm with a small Coleman cooker. You know the kind with the green propane bottle?" I could just picture HJ huddled over a small fire, warming his nail-scarred hands over the blue flames on those wintery unFlorida-like nights. I imagine he has those ladies closeby him, sharing the warmth.

That conversation with HJ will stick with me for a long time. I am a better person for having met him this morning. I was both humbled and blessed by the encounter.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


Trying to get traction for the new hashtag:


Use it liberally and be sure to like my new page on Facebook.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

HEL-LO 2015!!!

When I posted twice on Christmas Day about my day of volunteer service, I wasn't attempting to blow my own horn. It was just a very meaningful day for me and one of the best Christmases I've had since 2011, so I just wanted to express my joy on that day.

After blogging about the bittersweet taste of 2014, I determined to make 2015 mean something beautiful and powerful. On a sleepless night a few weeks before Christmas, an idea came to me that might just make that happen. I got a vision for a public awareness campaign that marries my love and passion for music with the fight against breast cancer. I'm going to call it Kick Cancer's Ass (sm). I plan to launch a cause and begin promoting it on social media very soon.

It's nothing earth-shatteringly new, but it is a way for me to honor my mother, who is dying of cancer, and the loved ones I've lost to the disease--my maternal grandmother, an aunt and a cousin who was a couple of years my junior and the mother of three children.

I began putting my new focus into practice on Christmas Day helping a homeless woman I met at breakfast and continuing it from that day forward. Again, I'm not drawing attention to my acts of service, but to my new energy and focus. I want to leave a mark on my community, wherever I am, and create a legacy for my daughters to be proud of and footsteps in which, hopefully, they will follow. My girls have ALWAYS been an inspiration to me, never allowing me to pass a homeless person in any of the places we've lived--Tallahassee, Indianapolis and Fort Myers Beach--without giving them something, even the change out of the ashtray in the car.

What do I hope to gain by launching a non-profit? It's not a get-rich scheme or anything like that (some people do get rich running non-profits). I just want to have a purpose greater than myself. I want to devote myself to something that will enrich my life. Yes, I have my daughters and being their Daddy is the most satisfying and life-enriching challenge I've ever faced. It gives me all the meaning I need for my life, but I also want to be about DOING something. I've always known there's more than 8-to-5 punching a timeclock everyday. There has to be! And while I will continue to be gainfully employed somewhere, I will be busy doing good, as well.

So for 2015, I've vowed to be more purposeful, more positive and more proactive. I just came up with that...three P's. That mission will guide my decisions and my actions for the coming years. It sparked with an idea in mid-December, turned into forward motion on Christmas Day and will continue as long as I have breath in my lungs.

Yes, 2014 was a challenge like none other I've faced. I am certain 2015 will bring even more difficult challenges, but my attitude is what will make the biggest difference. I am launching headlong into this year with a positive, self-affirming, more purposeful attitude. Thank you 2014 for reminding me about what's truly important. And HEL-LO 2015! Let's go and do good!

(Editor's note: As I began writing this, a stranger approached me at the McDonald's in Tallahassee where I find myself writing today, and asked me to move my car so she could have someone give her vehicle a jump. I gladly told her I'd help, as I have a long, heavy-duty set of cables in my trunk. I do believe in Karma.)